Things will get better: Ball
Premier sums up 2016 and looks ahead to 2017
Towards the start of the traditional year-end interview with The Telegram, Premier Dwight Ball did a pretty good job of summing up Newfoundland and Labrador politics in 2016.
“One of the easiest things for other politicians to do is blame another politician,” he said.
Ball was talking about the opposition parties, who have hammered him for the past 12 months for perceived dishonesty, broken promises and dithering.
But the observation cuts the other way, too, as Ball explained why he needed to deliver a tough budget and abandon those election promises.
“I just compare it to if I was a first responder showing up to an emergency scene: the first thing you’ve got to do is secure the site,” Ball said.
“We had to secure this province. It was as simple as that. We could never move on with some of those commitments without making sure the financial house was in order.”
The emergency scene that Ball is describing, of course, is the budget situation left by the previous Tory government, with a deficit of more than $2 billion, and a hydroelectric megaproject in Labrador that was well on the way to being officially classified as a “boondoggle.”
On the budget, Ball fully admits he could have done better. “Early on, did we make some mistakes? Yeah, we did. As a new government, we made some mistakes. I didn’t do a very good job, and I’ll take responsibility for this,” he said.
“We didn’t spend any money communicating the budget. Others did it for us and so we should have got out, I think, in advance of the budget and articulated to people — No. 1, why we’re doing what we’re doing here, the situation that we’re into and then the good things that were in the budget.”
Back in the spring, one of the enduring criticisms of the budget was that it was a hopeless document — full of tough choices and painful cuts, but no sense of optimism for the future.
On that point, Ball said it was a necessary thing, again implicitly laying the blame at the feet of the previous Tory government.
“It was a reality check,” he said.
“We had lived on, in some ways, false hope and false optimism. And people were told all these wonderful things, but their future wasn’t secured.”
Ball said he’s optimistic about 2017.
“I am hopeful about 2017 and 2018 and beyond, because we’ve put in measures now to make sure that is secure,” he said.
“In this economy, when a business closes up it seems like it gets magnified. But when you look at PAL, as an example, there’s another company where they’ve got this attitude that they’re going to grow, and they’re growing in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Shortly after speaking to The Telegram, Ball headed to the airport to participate in a media event with PAL highlighting the company’s work with the armed forces on new airplanes.
“We didn’t spend any money communicating the budget. Others did it for us and so we should have got out, I think, in advance of the budget and articulated to people — No. 1, why we’re doing what we’re doing here, the situation that we’re into and then the good things that were in the budget.” Premier Dwight Ball
Premier Dwight Ball alongside the Christmas tree in the main lobby of the Confederation Building on Tuesday, Dec. 20.